While some would argue a lack of salt water could make for a less stupendous summer, others would heartily disagree that Michigan’s Great Lakes are just that: great. I have a lot of love for Michigan, the Great Lakes, and what they have to offer the summer.
To truly celebrate, I’ve compiled a list of my 15 ways to make the most of a Michigan summer, in no particular order:
1. Grand Haven
It’s no wonder this town on the west side of the state is on the list. Grand Haven‘s lighthouse and pier are some of the most iconic scenes in the state. The city has been named one of the best beach towns in the state, best secret beaches in the world, best place to retire, and the list keeps going. With a state park, plenty of restaurants, camping spots, sandy beaches, a 2.5-mile harbor-front-boardwalk, and summer fun, it’s a ‘don’t-miss’ for any Michigander. Go ahead and brave the cold water of Lake Michigan!
2. Legs Inn
This lesser-known Polish restaurant boasts good eats and great views in the small town of Cross Village, at the northwestern tip of the Lower Peninsula. A quick trip from Mackinac or Petoskey, Legs Inn often fills up quickly with bikers traveling the Tunnel of Trees, or those in search of an authentic polish meal. The handcrafted woodwork displays timeless Native American themes, and American style food is served as well – including a heaping serving of carrot cake. Legs Inn has even been named one of Michigan’s “most unusual architectural marvels” by the Michigan Historical Commission. Cultures of all kinds are represented and celebrated in this unique log complex. Patio views include a picturesque, colorful garden and striking views of Lake Michigan.
3. Mackinac Island
While the Grand Hotel is often remembered for its silver-screen-debut in “Somewhere In Time,” there’s so much more the island offers. Horse-drawn carriage rides, bicycle trips, fudge shops, unique eateries, butterfly houses and more fill the streets of the island. Nothing says Michigan summer like taking the ferry from the city to the island, or crossing the Mighty Mac itself from neighboring St. Ignace.
4. Traverse City
It wasn’t named one of Michigan’s most beautiful towns for no reason. Traverse City is a bayside city, with plenty of outdoor festivals, a regarded film festival, scenic overlooks, strolling sidewalks, and more. Many argue it’s the closest thing to a California coastal town that us Michiganders can get. July celebrates the area’s appreciation for cherries with the Traverse City Cherry Festival, but the love of grapes is evident in this “True North” town as well. Grapes bring wine, and the idyllic wineries overlooking the Grand Traverse Bays are abundant in Traverse City.
5. Sleeping Bear Dunes
The people have spoken, and they’ll tell you Sleeping Bear Dunes are nothing but the best. Named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America, the Sleeping Bear Dunes exemplifies the #PureMichigan mentality. Canoe trips, a maritime museum, an observatory, campfires, hills, streams, trails and more, it’s a mecca of natural resources. Get your pails ready, Petoskey Stones await!
6. Oscoda/ Au Sable River/ Huron National Forest
If you’re looking for more of a getaway than the tradtional touristy spots, Oscoda might be just what you’re looking for. You can rent canoes, kayaks, tubes, and paddlewheel boats to venture up and down the AuSable River. Fishing on Lake Huron and exquisite golf courses await. The Huron National Forest trails can accommodate and thrill hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. Aside from land adventures, Oscoda is known for its crystal clear waters and sugar sand beaches.
7. Belle Isle
With 987 acres, Belle Isle seems like its own serene world. Complete with an aquarium, greenhouse, fountain, picnic areas, trails, and a faraway feel, Belle Isle is the closest getaway in Detroit, outside of taking the Bridge to Windsor. Plenty of picnic areas, a frequent ice cream truck, and refreshment stands ensure you’ll never go hungry or thirsty during your excursion.
8. Capri Drive Inn
Voted one of Michigan’s best drive inns, the Capri Drive Inn is the perfect flashback in time to a simpler lifestyle. Grab the kids, pack your snacks, or visit the concession stands, load up the blankets, and set your radio dial. With two screens, you get a choice of 4 movies to watch. Enjoy the dusk-time showtimes complete with a perfect backdrop to enjoy those Pure Michigan sunsets.
9. Ann Arbor Art Fest
The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair sprawls across the city for a long weekend near the end of July every year. With all types of art: sculpture, painting, photographs, jewelry, trinkets, pottery, birdhouses, and more, the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair has become a tradition for East-side residents of Michigan. Chances are if you root for blue, you’ve probably frequented this artsy event.
10. Drummond Island
Drummond Island is one of the largest islands in Lake Huron, and the second largest freshwater island in the nation. A fisherman’s dream, the area’s waterways include prime casting spots to snag fish like Smelt, Herring, Whitefish, Cisco, Walleye, Northern Pike, Perch, Smallmouth Bass, and Salmon.
11. Third Man Records – Cass Corridor
Detroit’s first music sanctuary might be revered to Motown, but the White Stripes’ frontman Jack White has set out to keep the tempo of music in the Mitten State going. Third Man Records in Detroit’s Cass Corridor opened in 2015 and features live shows, rare record finds, a popup recording studio, and more to make this unlike any other record store I’ve frequented in Michigan. This is a great visit for those not so sun-shiney days, ’cause as much as Michigan is great, sometimes it’s still cold and rainy.
12. Huron National Forest
The only national forest in lower Michigan, the Huron-Manistee National Forest includes almost one million acres of public land. Plenty of small-feel towns pop up along the sprawling land encompassed within the forests, including Manistee, Ludington, Pere Marquette, and Cadillac.
13. Pictured Rocks
Aside from just a memorable scene from native Michigan rocker Kid Rock’s “Born Free” music video, Pictured Rocks is a monumental symbol of our Great Lakes state. Voted Michigan’s number one adventure destination by Good Morning America, Pictured Rocks cruises take adventurers out on a scenic view of 40 miles of Great Lakes shoreline. Views of the East Channel Lighthouse, Grand Island, Miners Castle, Painted Coves, Lovers Leap, Spray Falls and more are viewable by boat or kayak rentals. This daytrip is perfect for families looking to peacefully take in a healthy dose of vitamin D in one of the state’s most regarded spots.
14. Harbor Springs
Another seaside town that has been able to keep the tourist traps far out of sight, Harbor Springs is a haven for family-owned shops, restaurants, blue waters, and plenty of nautical adventures. The hillside sidewalks resemble that of a hip East Coast fisherman town.
15. Dark Sky Preserve Park
When the sun goes down, the fun starts in The Headlands, an International Dark Sky Park. Enjoy nature and go ‘off the grid’ in Emmet County while watching the sky put on a magical show right before your eyes. Keep your cell phone chargers at home, and leave the photography for the professionals because this is one time to just sit back and enjoy, be present, and cross it off your bucket list.
What are your favorite places and spaces to enjoy a Michigan summer? Let us know!